Photo By: Denica Shute
Region
Tohoku
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Aomori
Population
1,475,635

Hachinohe Sansha Taisai Festival

When the streets turn into the ultimate Japanese variety show.

  • Festival dates are July 31 through Aug. 4. Aug. 4 is the peak day with performances starting at 2 p.m.!
Hachinohe Sansha Taisai festival is the ultimate Japanese variety show every summer.

Situated in the often overlooked but seafood-rich city of Hachinohe in northern Aomori Prefecture, it’s the perfect pit stop before hitting up other Tohoku regional summer festivals in Japan’s northeastern prefectures.

Hachinoe Sansha Taisai - Floats (7)

Photo by: Denica Shute See the floats from Aug. 1-3!

During the festival, which runs every year from July 31 to Aug. 4, the most famous attraction is the fleet of nearly 30 floats paraded at daily and nightly intervals from Aug. 1-3. Complete with dozens of towering figures (even 10 meters tall!) and small moving dolls, these technicolor reenactments of old folktales draw huge crowds every year.

Each day also showcases traditional arts, including horseback polo, musicians, and more traditional dances than are truly watchable.

Hachinoe Sansha Taisai - Floats (7)

Photo by: Denica Shute Magnificent floats at the Hachinohe Sansha Taisai.

Continuing the Tohoku tradition of large nighttime floats, Hachinohe Sansha Taisai has the dramatic allure of the renowned Nebuta Festival in Aomori City with a fraction of the crowds.

The festival started 300 years ago as a humble mikoshi (portable shrine) carrying but was co-opted by the wealthy merchant class looking to exert their influence over the region. They commissioned intricate moving dolls that commemorated famous stories and paraded them through the streets. Since then the festival has evolved into an eccentric mish-mash of traditional performances.

Hachinoe Sansha Taisai - Floats (7)

Photo by: Denica Shute Locals gather every year to part take in this vibrant tradition.

If the glittering monoliths aren’t enough, then there is a performance of Kiba Dakyu, the dying art of horseback polo, and numerous dance performances scattered throughout the days, including Tekomai (dancers leading the parade), Toramai (the famous Tiger Dance), Horyo Kaguya (a local dance), and Hanayatai (the flower stall dancers).

Hachinoe Sansha Taisai - Floats (7)

Photo by: Denica Shute The festival runs every year from July 1 to Aug.5.

Know before you go

Making the most of Hachinohe Sansha Taisai comes down to knowing the complex schedule of events and their locations. While Kiba Dakyu is performed between 2-4 p.m. on Aug. 2 outside Chojasan Shinra Shrine, the float parades take a different route each day. For the exact details, see Hachinohe city’s official guide.

Sincerely one of the most visually stunning festivals in Japan, its charm lies in the locals who keep these traditions alive each summer.

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Things To Know

Yearly Event

Festival runs yearly from July 31 to Aug. 5. The most famous attraction is the fleet of nearly 30 floats paraded at daily and nightly intervals from Aug. 1-3.

How To Get There

Address

Hachinohe, Aomori, Japan

By train

The Tohoku-Hokkaido Shinkansen gets you to Hachinohe station within 3 hours. After that, change onto the local Hachinohe line for two stops, and get off at Hon-Hachinohe station.

By bus

Overnight buses go from Tokyo station Yaesu South to Hachinohe station East Exit, where you’ll get on the local Hachinohe line for two stops to reach the festival site at Hon-Hachinohe station.

By car

Just under 8 hours straight up the Tohoku Expressway from Tokyo. Temporary parking grounds are opened in Nagane Sports Park, from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. for ¥700.

Where To Stay

City Park Hotel Hachinohe
  • Bancho 5-5 Hachinohe-Shi, Aomori 031-0031
  • 6.9/10
  • 0.2 km
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Smile Hotel Hachinohe
  • Bancho 31-5 Hachinohe-Shi, Aomori 031-0031
  • 7/10
  • 0.3 km
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Hachinohe Grand Hotel
  • Bancyo 14 Hachinohe-Shi, Aomori 031-0031
  • 8/10
  • 0.4 km
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Daiwa Roynet Hotel Hachinohe
  • Yokamachi 1-1 Hachinohe-Shi, Aomori 031-0086
  • 8.4/10
  • 0.4 km
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